World-leading MMO faces new challenges as customers chew through content

Blizzard rethink as Warcraft subs fall again

Blizzard is seeking alternative means to attract new World of Warcraft fans, as the routine money-spinner continues to lose customers.

The MMO, which has been trailblazing in its genre since 2004, dropped around 300,000 subscribers between May and July.

That puts its worldwide subscription count at 11.1 million, and represents a loss of interest for the second successive quarter.

The developer’s CEO, Mike Morhaime (pictured), explained to investors that plans are in place to reverse the downturn.

The group recently launched the Cataclysm expansion pack in China – a region Blizzard believes offers huge growth opportunities.

Morhaime said the staccato nature of Warcraft subscription numbers was primarily due to content cycles. Numbers peak with new expansions and gradually fall, he said.

However, Morhaime recently suggested that adding new content to an aging game becomes increasingly ineffective.

"As our players have become more experienced playing World of Warcraft over many years, they have become much better and much faster at consuming content," he said.

"And so I think with Cataclysm they were able to consume the content faster than with previous expansions, but that’s why we’re working on developing more content."

Yesterday, Morhaime made clear Blizzard’s response to this trend. The company pledged to flood the game with new content as a matter of urgency.

Also in effect is a new free-to-play scheme where any players can try the game for as long as they wish, but must pay after they reach a certain level of experience.

The fruits of that plan will be explained in more detail over the coming months.

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